Butler Falls To Top-Ranked Duke, 82-70

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Senior Kyle Singler sparked an 12-0 run midway through the second half that lifted No. 1 Duke to an 82-70 victory over Butler in the Carquest Auto Parts Classic at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.  The nationally-televised game was a rematch of last spring’s NCAA Division I Championship game.

With Butler (4-3) holding a slim, 44-42, lead, guard Nolan Smith started Duke’s decisive run with three successive free throws.  Singler followed with back-to-back baskets to make it 49-44, and Andre Dawkins followed with a three-point play to give the Blue Devils and eight-point advantage.  Center Mason Plumlee completed the run with a slam dunk, giving Duke its first double-digits lead of the game.

Butler did close to within three points at 60-57 on a three-point field goal by Shawn Vanzant, but Duke’s Kyrie Irving hit back-to-back three-point field goals to stretch the margin back to nine.  The Bulldogs never got closer than seven points in the final six minutes, and Duke stretched the final margin at the free throw line.

“I thought we played really hard,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens.  “They made plays at crucial times.  Irving made the two threes and Dawkins made a contested three that separated the game.  I thought we had a deep contribution from a lot of people and that was a positive.”

Much of Butler’s play in the first half was positive.  Senior Matt Howard opened the game with a three-point field goal and the Bulldogs more than held their own with the defending national champs throughout the opening 20 minutes.  A three-point field goal with six seconds remaining in the half gave Butler a two-point lead, but Smith tied the game at the final buzzer, 33-33.

The two teams continued to trade leads through the first seven minutes of the second half, until Duke’s decisive run.  The score was tied nine times during the game and there were 11 lead changes.

Butler played 12 minutes of the first half without Howard, who picked up a pair of fouls, and 15 minutes of the second half without leading scorer Shelvin Mack, who experienced leg cramps.  Mack was on the bench during Duke's decisive scoring run.  Center Andrew Smith also went to the bench in the second half after sustaining a blow to the head, though he did return late in the game.

Vanzant came off the bench to lead the Bulldogs with 14 points, including 12 in the second half.  He also added five rebounds to help Butler stay even on the boards with the sizeable Blue Devils, 35-35.  Howard finished with 13 points, Mack had 11 points and a team-high six rebounds and Smith added 10 points.  Junior Garrett Butcher came off the bench and scored seven points, all in the first half.

Smith led Duke (8-0) with 24 points, while Irving added 21.  Singler finished with 13 points and Dawkins had 10.

The Blue Devils wound up shooting nearly 60% from the field in the second half, hitting 13 of 22 shots.

Butler will face another rugged test on Thursday, Dec. 9, when it visits Xavier for a 9 p.m. (ET) contest.  The Bulldogs will return to Hinkle Fieldhouse to host Mississippi Valley State on Saturday, Dec. 11.